Respect looks different to each person, and the things that feel respectful to one person may feel disrespectful to the next person. Use these tips to start a conversation about respect.
Respect your partners gender and sex characteristics. Always use their chosen name and pronouns, and never say they’re not a ”real” woman, man, or trans person for any reason – including their attractions or sexual orientation, the ways that they like to have sex or not have sex, or what you imagine life was like for them growing up. Even if you’re really angry at them – criticise the behavior you’re upset about, never invalidate their gender.
Respect your partners body, including using the words they use to talk about it, and their choice to take or not take hormones and have surgeries or other medical treatments. Respect their right to make contraceptive and reproductive choices, and to use protection against STIs and HIV. Respect their ‘no’ if they don’t want to use alcohol and other drugs. Respect their mobility, hearing, seeing, or other accessibility needs.
Respect your partners sexual boundaries, including the ways they are comfortable with being touched or not being touched, and sexual activities they don’t want to do or times they don’t want to do them. Sometimes you might feel rejected if they say no to hooking up, but pressuring them will only make them feel that you don’t care what they want. Show them how much you love them by never manipulating them into sex.
Respect your partners other relationships, including whanau, friends, kids, other partners, ex-partners who they are friends or family with. It’s healthy for your partner to spend time with other people they care about, and sometimes they need to spend time alone too. It can be scary learning to trust, but controlling them just means pushing them to make a choice between you, and everyone else they care about.
Respect your partners autonomy – the daily things they need in their life and their ability to make decisions for themself. Respect them as a whole person, accept responsibility for your share of the child care or house work and do not treat them as an extension of yourself. Don’t expect them to fulfill your ideals or fantasies of what someone of their gender, or someone with their sex characteristics, should do.
Respect your partners safety, don’t put them in dangerous situations such as drinking and driving, or going places they will be exposed to transphobia or other harm.
Respect your partners emotions, mental health, neurodiversity, and wairua or life force. Be honest with them, make time to talk with them about things that are important to them, have patience to work through difficult emotions without blaming them, putting them down, or becoming abusive, accept responsibility for your own emotions and actions, and only expect them to take responsibility for theirs.
Respect your partners economic situation, including their choice to do sex work or to not do sex work, do not prevent them from working, not take their money, or expect them to pay for your expenses. Money is survival and can be very stressful – some people decide to keep finances separate, and others pool resources together. Make sure you’re not standing in the way of your partner paying their bills – which includes keeping them up all night when they have to work the next day!
Respect their privacy – don’t tell other people personal information about their sex characteristics and/or gender, their body, their HIV status, or the ways they have sex or don’t have sex. Don’t share their private photos, videos, or messages. Do not insist that they share with you the intimate details of their past sexual experiences. Don’t insist on knowing their passwords, reading their email, or having access to their social media.
Respect their culture, their whakapapa, their people, and their language, their values, spiritual practice, the land they’re from. Respect the histories of their people, and the ways in which gender and sex characteristics might be thought about differently than in your culture. A healthy relationship has room for difference and can celebrate each others diversity.